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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Goodbye, Dear Friend Hercules

Two weeks ago, we lost our big buddy, Hercules. John called him the "World's Biggest Lap dog" and it would be an injustice not to post a story or two about the Great Dane who made his home with us for so long. 

John adopted Hercules over five years ago. He was already five years old, full grown, weighing over two hundred pounds when John took him in. Hercules always brought our family a lot of attention whenever we were traveling with him.  He was a close companion of Jack, our terrier-beagle mix. Hercules and Jack were pretty much always together, from the living room where they would rest on opposite counches, to the neighborhood where they would roam together if they got away from us (before the backyard was fenced.)  My first encounter with Hercules was on my first date with John. We had dinner at the house, and when I first walked through the front door, these two crazy dogs came rushing at me, barking with tails wagging.  Hercules' tail was about two feet long and he got so excited, whacking his tail on the wall beside where I stood, that his tail burst open and blood was splattering all over the walls. It was quite alarming! I remember teasing John about not being afraid of the blood splatters on the wall leading down to the basement and about my being out on a date in the middle of the mountains with a complete stranger. 
I didn't know how to take Hercules at first: he was so large and intimidating, and yet, as gentle as a lamb. I would drive off to find him if he got away from the boys, and when I found him and called to him, he would jump into the cargo space of the Jeep and his huge tail would hang down. Several times, I had to try hard to not smash his tail when I closed the cargo door. Most of the time, he had this dopey kind of look on his face, but he was still pretty smart. He knew to stay away from the cats, and not try to steal food from Pork Chop.
Another special memory would be the day I brought Jeremiah and Peniel home, in June of last year. The boys were not used to indoor dogs, but I told them we had two big ones, and one small dog.  But I guess when you weigh 36 pounds like Jeremiah, a 178 pound dog that stands as tall as the kitchen counter is a little bit freaky.  I will never forget how the boys took one look at Porky and Hercules, and ran into our kitchen pantry, huddling together and shouting: "There's a horse in your house! It's a horse in your house!"  When Jeremiah finally came out of the pantry, I sat him on the kitchen counter and he looked around worriedly. His eyes found Jack, little scruffy, 30 pound Jack. "I yike the jello dog," he told me through his tears . . . but it wasn't soon before he learned that Hercules was the gentle one. Jeremiah played with Herc's tail, tried to ride him through the house, picked up his big feet and drove matchbox cars down his hip bone. Yes, he was a very patient old dog. He outlived most great Danes by 2-3 years, and he died peacefully on our back porch.

We Love you, Hercules! Rest in Peace!

"If there are no dogs in Heaven,
then when I die I want to go
where they went."

Will Rogers, 1897-1935

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Living in a Shoe

My mom has started referring to me as "the young woman who lives in a shoe" and my friend Sara, calls me "18 kids and counting," although I have never watched that show. I think that living in a "full house" grows you and stretches you in ways you never knew you could be stretched.  When I first went away to college in 1995, it was hard moving into a dorm full of people. We shared a community bathroom, the laundry facilities, a small kitchenette, and a large living space that was called the "lounge." It takes awhile to get used to all the sounds, sights, smells, and scenes that you are exposed to when you leave the comforts of home for a girls dormitory.  I think that is kind of the way it is at my house when people come to visit, or when the girls have a friend over.  Maybe the 15-passenger van in the driveway is a little intimidating, or maybe its the issue of standing in line to use the restroom. Either way, I can always tell when someone is a little less than comfortable with our wacky house that is busting at the seams.  I like to think that I am doing what God always wanted me to do, creating a home for kids who need one, creating memories for those kids, and loving them as they should be loved. Psalm 68: 5-6 says God is a "5 father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling. 6 God sets the lonely in families." I look around our kitchen table and think about these verses often. God has put together our family of different backgrounds, and I am very thankful we are exactly what we are. Just take a "typical" evening in my house- I get home from work about 7 pm - there is a little boy with brown skin playing on the floor with a Rottweiller. There is a red-haired, freckle-faced girl talking about a paper she has to write on Harper Lee's book, To Kill a Mockingbird, an autistic 12-year old in glasses trying to play the harmonica, and another boy in glasses making origami birds out of every piece of paper he can find. There is another beautiful brown-skinned boy, digging through the laundry trying to find something he lost, and another dog sniffing at the laundry pile. In the kitchen, a teenage girl and teenage guy take turns on the computer, working on projects, and a sweet bald man is trying to cook dinner amidst the chaos. There are times when it seems overwhelming- the dirt on the floor, the legos in the drain of the bathtub, dog hair all over the furniture, Kool-aid knocked over on the counter - and there are times when I fantasize about the peace and quiet I once knew when it was just me. And then I remember when it was "just me", and I had to sleep with my gun, Rottweiller, and all the lights in the house turned on. I would wake up three or four times a night to check and make sure the doors were all locked. I would sit in silence over a meal, or just park myself in front of the television at night for the company of the Golden Girls. I would take a walk in the neighborhood with my sweet dog, or go walk on the treadmill at the Y. But I was alone. And then there was Christmas of 2007. It was the first and only Christmas that I ever woke up alone. Yes, my sweet doggie was there, but there was no one to exchange gifts with, or share a nice breakfast. I was "the lonely" and God "set" me in a family. He had not forgotten me, although there were times I felt forgotten. He remembered me, and my heart's desire, and moved me and my sweet guard dog to Dahlonega to live with John and his three awesome kids. Then he blessed our home with three more great kids, and others would follow. Thinking about it, I rather like my life in a shoe. There is always something happening, always someone to talk to, or share a meal with. Yes, I like being the young woman who lives in a shoe. I think I will stay there, although we may need to switch our shoe to wide-width.